Open Gov’t Directive: large data set release today

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This evening, the White House issued a press release (included below) touting the release of nearly 300 data sets from 24 departments and agencies — in time to meet the first major deadline of the Open Government Directive. Also due today was each agency’s designation of a high-level senior official to be responsible for the quality of data disseminated through public venues (like USAspending.gov).

While it will take some time to examine the data sets’ contents and assess whether these are indeed high-value data sets — something our reporting team is on top of — what is undeniable is that this kind of information release would be unthinkable thirteen months ago.

Today’s actions provide concrete evidence of a major change in the attitude of the executive branch in favor of transparency. Only time will tell if the data lives up to this promise.

In 15 days, we can expect agencies to release their /open webpages. (We have suggestions about that, too). This is getting interesting.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_______________________________________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 22, 2010

Contact: OMB Communications, 202-xxx-xxxx

First Open Gov Deadline Brings Online Treasure Trove of Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly 300 new sets of data are now online as part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to breaking down barriers between the federal government and the American people.

“These steps underscore my Administration’s commitment to creating an unprecedented level of transparency and public participation in government.  Through our open government efforts, we are bringing down the walls between the government and the American people, strengthening our democracy and enhancing the effectiveness and accountability of our government.  We are committed to changing how Washington works, and a major part of that is showing the American people what Washington does.”

“The Administration is transforming the way the federal government has long operated, shifting the default setting from closed, secret, and opaque to open, transparent, and participatory,” Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra explained.  “We are democratizing data, putting the power of information in the hands of the American people.”

“These datasets empower people by simplifying access to information that, for too long, has been sitting on shelves throughout Washington,” Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra said.  “The data can spur innovation. Entrepreneurs, corporations, and ordinary Americans can build value on top of this raw material into applications that will improve our quality of life.”

Each of the 24 major government departments and agencies, together with several small and independent agencies, have uploaded information to Data.gov, in accordance with the Administration’s Open Government Directive issued in December 2009.  That directive established an unprecedented standard for government agencies, insisting that they achieve key milestones in transparency, collaboration, and participation.

As part of the data published today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is issuing user-friendly information about the ease of use for child safety seats.  While the safety data is already available, consumers now will be able to access the ratings focused on the ease of utilizing instructions, reading labels, installing the seat, and securing the child.

The Department of Health and Human Services is publishing information that previously cost a person $100 to acquire.  The data will provide detailed breakdowns on the volume of physician services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries and the payments for those services.  Information will be sortable by the type of medical service provided and by state.  The data can be used to look at patterns of Medicare spending, the medical challenges facing a state or a population, or the types of services delivered to meet specific conditions.

With the first stage of the Open Government Directive completed, attention turns to step two:  each agency is creating a website to serve as the gateway for agency open government activities.  In addition, Chopra and Kundra soon will launch an open government dashboard to track agencies’ progress to increase transparency and public participation in their operations.  The deadline for those activities is February 6, 2010.

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